Games today (Saturday)
2:30 p.m. – Navy vs VNS-One Alicia
5:30 p.m. – NU-Sta. Elena vs Cignal
National U-Sta. Elena knows full well the need to win again and avoid going through a stretch where its strength and poise will be tested by Cignal’s veteran smarts in a do-or-die setting.
“We need to finish it and get the title on Saturday,” said Sta. Elena coach Dante Alinsunurin after steering the Nationals past the HD Spikers, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 25-18, in the opener of their best-of-three series for the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference crown at the Paco Arena last Thursday.
While the young Nationals pounded their more experienced rivals in hitting department, 54-49, in Game One, Alinsunurin believes it is on the technical side where his wards are flourishing throughout their remarkable campaign in the league organized by Sports Vision.
“Since the start, our advantage is on receiving and blocking and our mindset has always been win the championship,” he added.
But expect the back-to-wall HD Spikers not to just roll over and die, guaranteeing a more explosive face-off than the first in Game 2 starting at 5:30 p.m. today, also at the Paco venue.
Meanwhile, PGJC-Navy also tries to wrap up its own best-of-three series for third with VNS-One Alicia at 2:30 p.m. with the Sealions going flat out for a repeat of their dominant 25-20, 25-19, 25-21 romp in Game One.
Alinsunurin also credited playmaker Joshua Retamar’s guts after the team skipper fought off cramps midway through the fourth set and finished with 26 excellent sets and five points.
But Sta. Elena’s 1-2 punch – Nico Almendras and Mike Buddin – will be Cignal’s main concern as the duo continued to hammer in the kills that have been crippling the HD Spikers. They combined for 42 points the last time out and are expected to produce another solid combination with Obed Mukaba and Ken Malinis also providing solid backup with a combined 14-point output.
Still, Cignal coach Dexter Clamor expects Marck Espejo, JP Bugaoan, Ysay Marasigan, and the fast-rising Louie Ramirez to outdo themselves, force a sudden death on Tuesday and hopefully extend their reign to another year after beating Air Force in a pair of five-setters in the 2019 finals before the league took for a forced three-year hiatus due to pandemic.
The four also combined for 52 attack points but the HD Spikers failed to recover after dropping the pivotal third set from a tight 22-all count and lost the match in the face of the Nationals’ sustained attack in the fourth.
Cignal also won the 2019 Reinforced crown, also at Air Force’s expense, underscoring the HD Spikers’ championship mettle that however will be put into a severe test today.
Matches are telecast live on One Sports and One Sports+ and online portals Cignal Play, Gigaplay, and SpikersTurf.ph.